Tom Falconer Hall - Cardiff
I’m Second Lieutenant Tom Falconer Hall, 21-years-old, and I am in my third year studying medicine at Cardiff University.
I joined Wales UOTC in my first year with the intention of joining the Regular Army and the experience has vastly exceeded all of my expectations.
WUOTC has its own team of experienced, dedicated permanent staff who work really hard to pass on their knowledge to us and ensure that we have the best time possible.
For the first 2 years the military training follows a common UOTC syllabus, delivering the first 2 modules of the Territorial Commissioning Course over 5 weekends and Tuesday drill nights at the TA centres.
It is designed to develop leadership in individuals; over the 3 years everyone really develops in confidence and character. The cold, wet and windy weekends on Sennybridge Training Area make for great team bonding experiences, forming tremendously close friendships that endure for years to come.
The weekends are action packed and extremely good fun with all the companies from around Wales learning, developing and competing together culminating in the Regimental Sergeant Major’s weekend where companies go head to head against each other in a simulated battle exercise.
The weekend always ends with a meal out where the inevitable “war stories” are told over a beer. One always feels that they have achieved so much especially when returning to halls of residence to find flatmates only just getting out of bed on a Sunday afternoon!
The social scene is huge with regular socials in the unit’s own bar (one of the principality’s cheapest!), ranging from fancy dress nights to formal dinners. The formal dinners are the envy of many a non-OTC student with Officer Cadets being taught the exacting etiquette required and hosting distinguished guests whilst enjoying sumptuous food, wine and port often accompanied by music from a military band.
Everyone gets the chance to do adventurous training (AT). Over the last three years WUOTC has run countless mountaineering, kayaking, sailing, skydiving and climbing trips as well as the now famous annual ski trip and multi-AT trip to Germany. Novices are encouraged in all AT activities, with everyone getting stuck in and having a really good time.
The highlight of the year is the 2 week annual camp. The first week consists of an exercise phase, whether its rural ops or flying around in helicopters as part of operations in built up areas. For those in their 2nd year an advanced tactics and leadership course is offered to allow 2nd years to put their command skills into practice whilst under considerable pressure and lack of sleep, making for a tough but extremely rewarding week.
The second week consists of several formal dinners, adventure training, live shooting on the ranges, an inter-company sports competition, visits to local military units and museums and of course the Company Commander’s Day, a typical day starting with a champagne breakfast followed by visiting 10 Downing Street or going to the races culminating in partying whilst sailing down a river with a live band on board the boat.
I took the chance to do the Territorial Army Commissioning Course at RMA Sandhurst to become a TA Officer whilst at university and commanding a platoon, something I would never have dreamed of before joining WUOTC.
During this year I am the senior subaltern for WUOTC, acting as the principle advisor to the Commanding Officer on behalf of the Officer Cadets.
The third year of WUOTC allows us to give something back to the organisation, whether it’s commanding a platoon, assisting with the running of a company or running the bar, charity events or adventure training trips. WUOTC also has its own unique 3rd year training programme to allow individuals to continuing development in both military and non-military spheres.
The best thing for me during my time at WUOTC has been seeing my peer group develop together as individuals and leaders in such a supportive culture.
WUOTC really pushes individuals to succeed in situations that they doubt that they can handle; whether it is commanding a Platoon in the field, getting a personal best in the personal fitness test or getting down that first green run on the ski trip!
No other organisation at university can allow a student to take on so much responsibility whether it is taking out a platoon of Officer Cadets out on exercise (with loaded rifles!), chairing unit meetings or organising large formal functions.
It really shows in the calibre of people when they leave at the end of university, with everyone having an intangible “something about them” that is readily picked up by future employers.